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State’s top court refuses to hear appeal by convicted murderer of Japanese woman

The Hawaii Supreme Court refused today to review a state appeals court ruling that affirmed Kirk Lankford’s conviction of murdering a Japanese visitor whose body was never recovered.

The high court’s one-sentence order denied Lankford’s request to hear a challenge to a decision last year by the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

Lankford was found guilty of the 2007 murder of 21-year-old Masumi Watanabe.  He was sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole.

Lankford testified at his jury trial that he accidentally sideswiped Watanabe with his truck while she was walking on Pupukea Road.

He said he tried to drive her to her home, but she became upset, dove out of the truck and hit her head on a rock and died.

Lankford said he later disposed the body off a Windward beach.

Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto who sentenced Lankford indicated he did not believe his  testimony, calling him a “predator.”

The appeals court rejected Lankford’s contentions which included the jury instructions were misleading and the evidence didn’t support the conviction.

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